Learning to be kind

Since I wrote my last post, I feel like a different person. I was in the midst of a mini breakdown, and until I fully self-destructed, I wasn’t able to identify the turmoil I was in and why I was acting so desperately.

The challenges over the past few weeks have been a blessing. I would never wish to repeat them, but I’ve learned so much about taking care of myself physically and mentally, I’m grateful for all the dark places I’ve been.

I was aware that landing back in Vancouver after a year and a half without a plan was irresponsible to my wellbeing. But I had no idea how cruel I could be or how much pressure I would put on myself until I beat my body into the ground and was forced to stop everything.

Thank goodness my hips revolted the way they did. It brought me to a grinding halt, and there was no way my mind could overpower what was happening. I could barely walk five blocks, so pulling out of the marathon was a given. I wouldn’t have even made it to the start line, which made the decision a little easier to swallow.

I learned a great deal about how we control the way situations affect us. The moment I pulled out of the race was a perfect example. I’d made such a song and dance about it in my head and sat with my mouse poised over the submit button of the form for at least five minutes before I caught myself over-dramatising. I was attributing so many emotions to this action, which had nothing to do with my desire to run a 42km race at all, and upon realising this, I pressed the button and immediately moved on.

I don’t think I ever really wanted to run the marathon, but I needed a focussed distraction and something to boast while determining the aspects of my life I didn’t have answers for. The marathon gave me a concrete response to the dreaded question of ‘what now?’ which I felt I needed because I was ashamed to have nothing I deemed as ‘impressive’ to report. I’ve spent so much of my life overachieving in my career and physical pursuits to quieten that frightened part of me that never feels good enough, I continually forget I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.

It’s taken a while to understand what slowing down means and to stop feeling guilty, worthless, or pathetic for doing so. At the beginning, I was terrified I was simply lazy, and if I allowed myself a week of respite, I’d get so used to doing nothing I’d never want to do anything productive again. These thoughts sound ludicrous when you write them down on paper, but they’re legitimate, and I beat myself up over them constantly.

Thankfully my mother helped me recognise I needed to restore my energy, repair my body, and reduce my anxiety before I could even begin planning for my future. I received so much great advice over the past few weeks through comment and emails, but it wasn’t until I called my mum in a fit of tears that I recognised something had gone wrong and I started to actually listen. She told me there was no way I could make any big decisions in the state I was in, and that my first priority was to find somewhere to live that made me happy and slowly build from there.

All the comments and advice I received gave me the permission I needed to rest. I’ve spent the last few weeks walking slower, noticing details of my environment and people I’ve never paid attention to before. I’ve taken the time to speak to strangers on the bus, in the supermarket, and along the street. I stop at every crosswalk before the light turns red, so I don’t have to race across the road in an unnecessary hurry. I take naps, I journal, I eat good food, I go to bed early, take baths, and admit that I need help.

In the process, I’ve started breaking down the overtly strong, powerful, independent persona I’ve created for myself over the years. No matter what I’ve achieved I’ve always felt there was something fundamental missing, and I think part of the answer is that I’ve disconnected so far from my needs and desires, I’ve been searching for something that was inside me all along.

The kinder I am to myself, the greater my capacity is to be kind to others. I can share and celebrate achievements, support my friends when they seek advice, and be present in conversations with the people I care about. I haven’t fully mastered any of this just yet, but I’ve caught a glimpse of how joyful a life without self-torture can be, and if all I need to do is be a little kinder to myself, I’m excited to explore this new path of self-discovery.

15 thoughts on “Learning to be kind”

  1. This song has pulled me out of some very dark times lately. Thought maybe it was a good time to pass on to you or one of your followers that also maybe going through a difficult moment.
    .Take Care.

  2. Wow, so profound. Yes, I think many of us go through this sort of experience. You have processed your feelings/ situation so insightfully. Your words will help others.
    And that is so much about life. Helping others, sharing our gifts, of which you have many.
    Thank you.

  3. Just yesterday I had an experience that gave me a jolt in my life…seems like I had to prove I was a talented gifted person…a young woman Reverent who is a chaplain for veterans talk to us about our need to believe in ourselves…do something creative, take a walk, do something to be kind to yourselves….whew…I saw her in the room where we take off our choir robes and told her all my talents, my art gifts….drawing, portrait oil painting, poetry, writing music…and afterwards felt, I cornered her…I was really trying, like a little girl, to get her to approve me…soooo, when I went to leave the church (the pastors and speakers always send this out with great love and support), being the last person, I went up to her and apologized for my behavior…Next to her was the most marvelous and loving gay man, Pastor, who loves me dearly…He heard me when I talked with her, and she was gracious and said that it just fine to share with her my gifts….so I said that it was most likely I did what I did to assure the “little child” within me, because “she” still needs to know that she is okay just like she is…then I confess to both of them, that I still do not love myself, and can hardly look in the mirror and say, “Barbie, I love you!” and can’t stand my face, nor anything I do without constant adulation…and that it very well comes from the fact that as a child when I was abused sexually ( which happened too many times) I was told that it was my fault.

    1. Beautiful Barbie, I admire your bravery in sharing your story and hear how challenging it has been for you to recover your self love after the trauma you experienced as a child. I have been blessed to witness many of the gifts you bring to this world and am grateful for the wisdom you share with us all. I hope through writing your memoir you’ll be able to look in the mirror again and see the brave, generous, and beautiful soul I witness shining back. 💖

  4. That third to last paragraph seems to show you’ve entered a healthful space. I ran to and fro when younger but now relish a slower pace. But my pace is not resultant of thought careful or a therapist’s recipe. It was the result of time, ‘hitting walls’, watching, while asleep, the results over time and chance; chance being the greatest source. One of the most valuable life lessons mine is realizing I have no control over anything and I’ve noticed the more appearance or assumption of control the greater the opportunity for dissatisfaction. Opportunity for an experience we deeply need is more often the product of change and change usually begins with pain. :-/ What Dreams May Come. “All of humanity’s problems stem from ‘our’ inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” -Blaise Pascal.

    1. We all love to be in control, but it’s freeing to let go of that need all the time. Another friend said to me recently that people never just sit at let themselves be without distraction anymore. I guess meditation is the key!

      1. Freeing and I would add radical. It’s antithetical to culture in these united States and many other ‘civilized’ lands. Being without distraction allows me to know my self and I’ve not found a more effective tool to bid riddance to angst, fear, regret, et al. I met a teacher from Vancouver’s Mountain Rain Zen last year and enjoyed his presence at monastery here. Zen isn’t for everyone but thankfully there are now several traditions all over the west and our culture is slowly incorporating the wisdom, if somewhat McDharma in flavor at this point. 😉 Radicals often pay a high price, in the other’s eyes, for awakening but never count the cost since it’s a great bargain in their eyes. Was reading this morning how the Presbyters on Muir’s first Alaska tour considered him “wild” but one young one among them was brave enough to ‘climb the mountain’ with Muir’s lead. He I’m sure, as many others have testified, was forever changed by encountering Muir. It seems all the civilized were strongly attracted to Muir’s oneness with his self and the wilds never realizing they had the same opportunity but were subsisting on leftovers.

    1. Don’t we just!! Thank you Judi! I too give you permission to do whatever it is you’re in need of! Much ❤️ Muk

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